The Canadian Digestive Health Foundation (CDHF) estimates that as many as 20 million people in this country suffer from some type of digestive disorder every year. Gastrointestinal problems can range from minor complaints, such as indigestion, to more serious conditions, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. These issues may be brought on by range of different factors, including food intolerances, genetics, reactions to certain medications, and stress.
Massage therapy can be a valuable tool in helping to improve the health of patients with gastrointestinal problems, reducing anxiety, increasing blood flow and circulation, and promoting a healthy immune system.
Read on to find out how massage therapists treat some of the most common gastrointestinal conditions.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)—commonly known as heartburn—is among the most minor and treatable digestive conditions, but is also one of the most common, with CDHF estimating it to affect as many as 5 million Canadians per week. GERD is caused by stomach acid flowing back into the esophagus, and can cause nausea, acid reflux, and a sense of burning in the chest. Massage can be useful in helping to relieve stress in patients suffering from GERD, and in improving the immune system through light, non-invasive techniques, such as Swedish massage and Lymphatic drainage. Homecare including recumbent positioning can also relieve symptoms.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can be the cause of severe embarrassment and discomfort for patients, with symptoms including abdominal cramping, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. It’s one of the most prevalent gastrointestinal disorders, with CDHF estimating 120,000 new cases every year in Canada alone.
IBS may be aggravated by sensitivity to certain foods, but stress can also have a huge affect on patients with the condition. Students pursuing registered massage therapist training may find that relaxation-based massage techniques, such as Swedish massage, can yield very positive results in IBS suffers, helping to reduce the severity of condition symptoms.
Another common gastrointestinal problem that you may encounter when you become an RMT is constipation, which medical professionals consider present in anyone with fewer than three bowel movements per week.
Abdominal massage has been shown to have a positive effect in the treatment of patients with constipation issues in a 2012 study conducted on 60 people at Umea University in Sweden. Results showed that the technique significantly decreased the severity of symptoms, with the group receiving abdominal massage showing a significant increase in bowel movements compared to a separate control group.
While massage therapy may be beneficial for patients with gastrointestinal problems, it’s important to be cautious when treating patients. Ideally, sessions should take place more than two hours after the patient has eaten, and positioning is also very important. Massage therapy students learn that lying down may stimulate the symptoms of the condition or even worsen it. Accordingly, RMTs often opt to administer massage to patients with digestive problems in a massage chair or semi-reclining position.
In addition, while abdominal massage has been shown to be helpful for patients with constipation, RMTs are cautious with other gastrointestinal conditions to avoid stimulating symptoms. Learning the safe use of massage therapy and its associated precautions is an essential component of massage therapy education.
Contact OVCMT for more details.